According to new research released by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, the proportion of Americans who read e-books is growing.

The proportion of Americans who read e-books is growing. With that growth in e-book reading is a growth in devices suited to the task. Ownership of tablets and dedicated e-book readers are both still on the climb.

The percentage of adults who read an e-book in the past year has risen to 28%, up from 23% at the end of 2012. Over that same time period seven in ten Americans reported reading a book in print and many of the people surveyed read both print and e-books during that time.

Book Formats Over Time

Pew’s January 2014 survey was conducted after the 2013 holiday gift-giving season and showed that e-book reading devices are spreading fairly quickly throughout the general public. At least 42% of adults now own tablet computers. That is up from 34% just since September 2013. The percentage of adults who now own a dedicated e-book reading device like a Kindle or Nook increased from 24% in September 2013 to 32% after the 2013 holidays.

Overall, 50% of Americans now have a dedicated handheld device–either a tablet computer like an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook–for reading e-content.

Who is Reading?

Women were found to be more likely than men to have read a book in the previous 12 months. Those respondents with higher levels of income and education are more likely to have spent time reading.  There were no significant differences by age group for rates of reading overall.

In terms of book format, women are more likely than men to have read a print book or an e-book. The same was true for those with higher education and incomes compared with others. Young adults are also more likely than to use e-books when compared to Americans who are 65 and older. Urban and suburban dwellers are more likely to use e-books and e-readers than those in rural areas.

e-Book Readers by Age

Although e-books are clearly rising in popularity, print remains an important feature of Americans’ reading habits: Out of the adults who read at least one book in the past year, only 5% said they read an e-book in the last year without also reading a print book.

How are People Reading?

In 2011, when fewer adults owned e-readers or tablets, many e-book readers accessed their e- books on the devices they did own, namely their computers or cell phones.

Device Ownership


The popularity of personal computers compared with newer e-reading devices in 2011 meant that many people reading e-books did their reading on desktops and laptops as on e-readers like Kindles or Nooks. Younger e-book readers were especially likely to access e-books on cell phones or computers, while older adults were more likely to use dedicated e-readers.

e-Book Reading by Platform

As tablet and e-reader ownership levels have risen over the past few years, these devices have become more prominent in the e-reading landscape. A majority of e-book readers say they read e-books on an e-reader or tablet, and fewer do any e-book reading on a desktop or laptop computer.

About a third of e-book readers still say they sometimes read e-books on their cell phone, reflecting both the ubiquity of mobile phones and the convenience of these phones as supplementary reading devices.

Survey Details

These findings come from a survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between January 2-5, 2013. The survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults ages 18 and older living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (505, including 268 without a landline phone), and were done in English and Spanish. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.